a companion discussion area for blog.codinghorror.com

Don't Click Here: The Art of Hyperlinking


Aye, it’ll be a happy day when we no longer have to try and guess where URLs such as a href="http://www.codinghorror.com/mtype/mt-comments-renamed.cgi?__mode=redid=37119"http://www.codinghorror.com/mtype/mt-comments-renamed.cgi?__mode=redid=37119/a are pointing (for extra credit, find which other guideline is broken when Javascript is disabled).

But it’s a good set of guidelines.


John Ferguson wrote:

Hehe, what kind of backward browser puts link destinations in the status bar? This is 2007, man, use Opera and put the link destination in tooltips!

So, anyone still relying on that info in the status bar is now backward and (dare I say it) retarded? It’s been common practice for a long time now, and with every link I hover, I look down at the - YES INDEED - status bar for a clue where it leads. And YES, I’m using Firefox. This may be 2007, but that doesn’t mean we’re all forced to use Opera, just because some backward wannabe-tyrant like John Ferguson says so.


@ H. Eriksson.

My short reply: Hell no!

Long reply:
I disagree. I find his linking very useful, and well put together. I often go on happy digressions into the linked information, information that I wouldn’t otherwise investigate were it not for his linking it.
And it’s [nearly] always relevant.

If he didn’t link his sources, it would be appropriate to start waving the well known “[citation needed]” flag.


“Click here” is a major pet peeve of mine… unfortunately, the people in charge of making decisions at my work think our users are retarded, so we still use it here and there.

Click here to download the PDF” is so much worse than “Download the PDF” It adds unnecessary clutter.

Plus the use of the word “click” means nothing to people using screen readers… they don’t have a mouse.


Just thought I’d throw this one out there -

Not that I like using “click here” or anything.


Brian: it’s simple, users aren’t expecting to click on links in an email. They read an email, they don’t interact with it.


@ Kal_Torak

The problem occures when you are constantly being pulled away from the current post you are reading, that I can agree with Eriksson -
that is annoying, no matter how relevant the links are. Imagine reading a post, clicking on some links, and all of a sudden you’ve read like five blog posts. It would be nice to sometimes read only one blog post at a time.

But nevertheless, you can’t expect people to be familiar with his entire blog archive.


I don’t see how anyone is making persuasive arguments for using “click here”. If removing the words “click here” increases the number of disgruntled customers so much, it is infinitely more likely that the way the page is laid out, or the style of the link being too close to the style of the text, is the real culprit. The poster above me mentioned “all walls looking exactly like doors”. That is the problem here: why assume everything should be the same. “Click here” is the lazy web designer’s way out of creating efficient yet diverse pages.


When our clients say they want “click here” then they get click-here-s. When our clients say they want for links, then they get s. When our customer decides that they want itty bitty icons on the download page for each type: xls, doc, pdf; well then, that’s what they get. What I think is good is irrelevant as that doesn’t pay the bills - making the customer happy (no matter how wrong they are) pays the bills.

Thanks for the link to the Project Xanadu article. I know folks who have that sort of pathological inability to get something to market that seems to coincide with “I’m right no matter what” attitude. I can imagine the mess things make with the inability to make copies when Xanadu collides with DMCA. Imagine the mess you’ll get if you can’t post “Bob says X” and instead have to post “Bob says {tumber}” and Bob uses a take-down notice to destroy the originals that folks may only link to, and not actually quote or copy.

My favorite Wired article was the one titled “Mother Earth Mother Board” and at one time I actually had the print copy of that magazine. The photos were spectacular as well.


I agree with all of this, but surely a lot of this is needed by sites who advertise? If they didn’t do some of this; then they wouldn’t make any money. We can vote with our feet, so to speak.


Hey Now Jeff,
I like your post feel they are good guidelines. As for #4 I think the link will adjust in the future. For example many users use Add-ons such as cool iris which enable a user to view a thumbnail of the link with out clicking it. I personally find this a useful add-on. In the future will this be the common behavior of links the expectation of the user?
Coding Horror Fan,


The top 2 hits on Google for “Click Here” say it all

Adobe Shockwave Download Center

Internet Explorer 6 Service Pack 1


Skimming through the comments I couldn’t find the biggest argument against click here:
When skimming through a document I often just look at links as they are a central part of a document. If I find a “click here” link I first have to read its context (say, one sentence before the link) to know what its about. Plus: Often I know that I found that link on that site. Then, having descriptive links greatly shortens the searching for the link.


Rick - doors shouldn’t have to be labelled. Labelled doors are bad design, simply put.

A door that can be pushed should have a plate on it - if it has no handle it can’t be pulled. A door can be pulled should have a handle on it. The text labels above are needless - unless you associated a handle with pushing a door.


The first guideline is the most violated, especially on forums (of all types). I don’t understand why such important links (navigating to the next page of replies) get such little screen real estate.


Along with using solid anchor text on your hyperlinks, it’s well worth the tiny extra effort to always use the TITLE attribute in your link code. It provides a little added info (in the form of a tooltip on most browsers) for the reader to help them decide whether the link is worth clicking.

And I like to think that little extra info also gives the search engines potentially more to chew on…


Sean: Thanks for the clarification. That really does make a lot more sense.

ps: why do I have to type the same captcha “orange” every single time?!


When you mentioned that there was a tradition of hyperlinking within text I was expecting you to mention those youth books that allowed one to create one’s own adventure.


.Net Bob: “So I guess my real question is what do you think of the rule that some want to make that “EVERY LINK on EVERY PAGE should have an underline”?”

They should be underlined, as that’s what people are accustomed to seeing.

The site you described is actually awful, though. Even if you decide to ignore convention, you should at least be consistent. If you underline a single link, every other link should be underlined asell; having some underlined and some not is terribly confusing, even for experienced users. “Do I click here? Or is it there? There should be a link here… Oh, wait! There might be… No, I guess not.” Terrible design. You owe lunch to whoever noticed and made you fix things. :slight_smile:


It’s sad to see how many people just plain don’t get the web when they argue in favor of using ‘click here’ for text hyperlinks. :frowning: